From 845 to 200 data fields: Food company licensing to become ‘simpler’ in Singapore

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

New food and beverage (F&B) companies will ‘only’ have to fill in 200 data fields, versus the previous 845 from next year. ©iStock
New food and beverage (F&B) companies will ‘only’ have to fill in 200 data fields, versus the previous 845 from next year. ©iStock

Related tags Singapore License Company Regulatory

New food and beverage (F&B) companies will ‘only’ have to fill in 200 data fields, versus the previous 845 from next year, revealed Singapore Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry (MTI) Chee Hong Tat.

This means a reduction of 645 fields, or over 75%. MTI is looking at going below 100 fields for more straightforward cases.

Chee also announced that fees will be slashed by over SG$500 (US$363) by removing some stages of the application process.

According to Chee: “Previously, a company which wants to set up a food shop would need to fill up to 845 data fields across multiple forms administered by different government agencies, [many of which] are duplicative, as different agencies are asking for the same information.”

Currently 14 forms are required for license application. Chee explained that these will be merged into a single application

In this single application, applicants will only need to upload supporting documents from different agencies as required. This is in contrast to what is happening now where similar documents have to be uploaded multiple times.

“We must ensure that when we try to achieve ‘one-stop’ service, our ‘one-stop’ should not become ‘one more stop,”​ he added.

“If government agencies can lower our processing and enforcement costs, we can share the savings with businesses in the form of lower licence fees.”

He acknowledged that getting agencies to scrutinise cost structures in order to improve efficiency, or alter regulatory approaches to reduce licensing costs, would be ‘more difficult’​, as these might try to keep existing processes as-is.

“If policy changes are required, we will surface to the ministers and cabinet for a decision,”​ Chee added.

The new application process is expected to be shortened to 28 days as opposed to the current 48 days.

Singapore Food Agency

The F&B licensing process is also expected to become more streamlined with the establishment of new statutory board Singapore Food Agency (SFA) in April 2019.

Currently, food licensing is somewhat fragmented in the country. For example, depending on the operation, businesses may require different licenses from the National Environmental Agency (NEA), Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and/or Health Sciences Authority (HAS).

SFA will be overseeing all food-related operations currently covered by NEA, AVA and HSA, so upon its formation, all food licenses will be obtainable from a single source.

SFA will fall under the umbrella of the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR). It is expected to comprise roughly 850 staff, according to the Ministry of National Development (MND).

MND also announced that Chief Executive Officer of AVA, Lim Kok Thai, will be concurrently appointed as the Chief Executive Officer (Designate) of SFA.

"By harmonising licensing standards and combining existing licences for food businesses, including farmers, food manufacturers, food retailers and food service operators, businesses will be able to adapt and transform their business models seamlessly and look at new ways to grow their operations,"​ said MND on its website.

“SFA will be better positioned to engage food establishments that are currently licensed by NEA and AVA, and support them on their plans.”

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